Language and Society - The nature of sociolinguistic perception. Language Variation and Change

by Kevin Theinl (Author)

Essay 2010 6 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics



1. Introduction
a. social meaning of language
b. social categorization
c. matched guise technique

2. Main part (contains also the main results of the study)
a. How the use of the variable ING is linked to a perception of the speaker as intelligent/ educated
b. Other perceptions of speakers using -in instead of -ing
c. Why the -in variable is associated with an easy-going/ younger speaker and -ing with a more intelligent/ credible/ older speaker
d. Definition of the indexical field and explanation why it is a useful tool for understanding the relation between the use of a variable like -ING and its social interpretation

1. Introduction

This paper deals with the social meaning of language, social categorization and covert reaction. It also goes into detail with the question if the use of the variable ING is linked to a perception of the speaker as intelligent or educated. Furthermore it will be discussed if the indexical field is a useful tool for understanding the use of a variable like –ING and its social interpretation. Afterwards the methods and results of Campbell-Kibler’s study are portrayed which include a discussion of the indexical field.

Social meaning of language

Sociolinguists deal with how linguistic behavior relates to other aspects of social behavior. The linguistic behavior, or more easily the language, shapes people's perceptions of groups and events in society. But sociolinguists also argue that linguistic variation does not only illustrate social differences. It is not just a social marker, it is also used by speakers who have the aim to position themselves within the social world. So the speakers of a particular dialect tend to peg them as a group belonging to a dialectal group, because language reflects the social and political status of different groups in society, it defines them as inferior or superior.

Besides linguistic variation can also differ depending on situations. For example even a person who is in an intellectually higher position, e.g. a professor, switches between different speech styles, so it can be observed that there is a linguistic variation between different intended audiences he wants to speak to. As a comparison a lecture and a talk to friends are a good example.

Social categorization

Social categorization deals with how people remember social interactions. It is much more effective to think of people as members of a group rather than as individuals. So one can simplify and recall information quickly. As social creatures, humans come in contact with many people of different colors, shapes, sizes, and genders so this categorization, to some degree, is useful. However, it also leads to several social problems including, but not limited to: discrimination, prejudice, racism, and stereotyping.

But social categories, regardless of their negative aspects, serve a purpose. They are efficient. It can be compared with the situation where you have to sift through a pile of papers, with no kind of order, to find one specific page of notes. How hard would that be? It is much better to have the papers organized so one can find what one is looking for easily.



ISBN (eBook)
File size
415 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Rostock
social meaning of language social categorization matched guise technique social interpretation contact linguistics covert reaction


  • Kevin Theinl (Author)

    7 titles published



Title: Language and Society - The nature of sociolinguistic perception. Language Variation and Change